No one churns out big-budget action mediocrity these days as regularly as Dwayne Johnson. So now, just three months after his giant gorilla-a-go-go Rampage, we have Skyscraper — a film that suggests what would happen if you took The Towering Inferno and Die Hard and stripped them of the qualities that made both work.
The setup is straight out of the early-’90s Shane Black playbook: It starts with Johnson’s Will Sawyer as an FBI agent, who fails to stop a nut from blowing up himself and his own kin. Sawyer was scarred by the incident, both emotionally and physically, losing a leg that’s been replaced by a titanium prosthetic. Now, 10 years later, he’s married to Neve Campbell and is the doting father of two adorable kids. The family travels to Hong Kong, where Sawyer’s been hired to assess the security of a brand-new mega-skyscraper that dwarfs Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, last seen being scaled by Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. The building, known as the Pearl, is pure man-made hubris, outfitted with all of the latest high-tech bells and whistles. But quicker than you can say, “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf—er!” a team of Euro-goons hijack it, looking for a MacGuffin that has no impact on your enjoyment of the rest of the film.
Johnson — in brave, paternal San Andreas mode — gets stabbed, stomped, and tased in his quest to save his family, trapped inside. It’s all passively watchable, but the main problem is that writer-director Rawson Marshall Thurber (Central Intelligence) hasn’t come up with a villain nearly as memorable as Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber. I know that comparison may seem unfair, but when you’re ripping off Die Hard this shamelessly, it’s kind of not. C–